Article cover illustration ‘Marijke van Welzen at work’ by Sarah Pixie © 2020
Marijke van Welzen interview with Young Curators.
Marijke van Welzen is a highly acclaimed textile and fibre artist from the Netherlands. Marijke uses textiles in a painterly way, creating masterpieces in appliqué and quilting techniques that draw their inspiration from Japanese emblems to Dutch still life painting. Each piece is a wearable piece of art, and Marijke’s work has taken her to exhibitions and textile festivals across the world. We have the chance to talk to Marijke about her inspiration and prolific career….
YC: Your work has a beautiful, mythical quality to it, drawing from Emperor’s Gardens and Dutch still life – what stories do you tell through your work?
MVW: Sometimes I use existing fairy tales, myths or folktales as inspiration. I read the story, daydream a bit about it and try to find printed fabric with the subject matter, draw something myself or use photos for further inspiration.
Other times I spin my own story while I’m working on the piece. For instance The Emperor’s Garden: I started with the Geisha panel. I placed her in a garden with lots more flowers and shrubs. I had this fabric with the umbrellas which I incorporated in the garden. I imagined there were more geishas under those umbrellas gossiping and laughing together. I extended the garden with more strolling geisha’s, a stream with koi fish and paths to wander. Then I also added some kind of castle, the hills in the background, cranes……
The coat Still Life was made around a Challenge fabric, the one with the flowers. The fabric reminded me of the Dutch Still Life paintings of the 17th century. I noticed in one of those paintings there was an insect on a leaf. I wondered if this was a coincidence or done intentionally. Then I decided to incorporate a load of insects, butterflies and other creatures in the piece. I bought a load of plastic insects and had great fun sewing them onto the piece.
YC: Your quilts have taken you all over the world – if you could work in any period in fashion history, which would you choose?
MVW: My quilts have travelled way more than I have! It’s amazing to attend a show where your work is exhibited though, so I try to go to some of them in person.
I would choose to be a princess in the 15th century. I love the costumes in the book The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry. The silks, velvets etc. Mind you I would have a tailor to make my clothes. I would only dabble in some embroidery then I think.
YC: How did you discover your love of working with fibres?
MVW: When I was little, my mum and grandma were always doing some kind of handwork e.g. knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing. My mum also made a lot of our clothes: sewn, knitted, crocheted. My sister and I did all sorts of handicrafts and drawing. As teenagers we made ‘new’ clothes from curtains and tablecloths, and we would wear them too! Textiles always were my favourite, my passion. Nowadays I make everything with my sewing machine(s), I could not do without that.
YC: You describe your work as wearable art – how do you feel about the differences between ‘art’ and ‘design’?
MVW: To me Design is produced by the Mind. With thorough thinking about the subject matter, a lot of calculations, prototyping and perfecting. The product is meant to be reproduced, on a large scale or just a limited edition, so there must be detailed instructions for that.
Art is produced by the Soul. It also starts with thinking and research on a theme, collecting materials etc., but from there on it is an intuitive process. Once I start, the piece evolves and takes its own path. I never know beforehand what the end product will look like exactly. There is always only one of a kind.
“To me Design is produced by the Mind. …. Art is produced by the Soul.” – Marijke van Welzen
A collection of Marijke van Welzen’s textile artwork.
YC: What advice would you give women working in textiles?
MVW: Go for it! The possibilities are endless. Go to a quilt or knit & stitch show. See what really inspires you and start with a simple project. You will find information on the www, on Pinterest, Facebook. If you can, take short workshops to experience different techniques and the power of a group of like-minded people.
You can see more of Marijke van Welzen’s work at: www.Art2wearblog.blogspot.com